Junio 24, 2017

Supreme Court to review partisan redistricting

20 Junio 2017, 12:01 | Gervasio Siguenza

Supreme Court to rule on how election districts are drawn

Justices could take up high-stakes fight over electoral maps

It's time for the legislature to stop with the false talking points, and focus on ensuring every Wisconsin citizen has their rights protected by drawing new maps now.

The Supreme Court has been willing to invalidate state electoral maps on the grounds of racial discrimination, as it did on May 22 when it found that Republican legislators in North Carolina had drawn two electoral districts to diminish the statewide political clout of black voters.

A panel of three federal judges earlier this year struck down state house district maps drawn in 2011 by Wisconsin's Republican controlled legislature, finding the resulting districts so blatantly partisan that they denied Democrats a fair shot at electing candidates of their choosing. Packing is fairly self-explanatory: the state legislature stuffs the opposition party's voters into a single district, thus diluting each individual vote.

The Supreme Court is taking on a case about partisan advantage in redistricting that could affect elections across the United States.

As a result, congressional lines have become ever more partisan in recent years.

It gives Republicans defending the map a chance at vindication, and it gives Democrats challenging the map a chance to set a new standard in redistricting cases that could upend partisan gerrymanders throughout the country.

Locked out: Republicans redrew the Wisconsin state assembly boundaries in 2011 but Democrats say they new map is unconstitutional because it is unfair to them.

This left fertile ground in the rest of the state for Republicans to win more legislative seats.

Wisconsin's attorney general appealed to the Supreme Court. Redistricting commonly takes place after the once-a-decade census is conducted.

This new case could allow the justices to provide some clarity on political gerrymandering while dramatically affecting the way states draw new district lines following the 2020 Census. This is so in part because the justices have been unable to agree on a legal rule for deciding the issue.

Four justices - only Justice Clarence Thomas remains of the group - said it was not the court's business to make such decisions.

Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law, told CNN that this case could have "enormous ramifications".

But the Court's four liberals dissented, and Anthony Kennedy filed a concurrence arguing that it was possible the Court could develop such a standard in the future. The case could have a major impact on how district lines are drawn up nationwide.

How Texans are reacting: The state's top Republican leadership - Gov. Surplus and lost votes are considered wasted votes. The court adopted an equation offered by the challengers that essentially measures and compares each party's wasted votes —those going to the victor in excess of what's needed for victory — in an election.

The Wisconsin court was not so definitive.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson says the Republican governor "is confident Wisconsin's redistricting process is constitutional and is pleased to see the Supreme Court take the case".

The state contends that while Wisconsin is a purple state in national elections, its geography favors Republicans in legislative elections.

Republicans "wield legislative powers unearned by their actual appeal to Wisconsin's voters", the voters argued in court papers. Any method of drawing districts will favor Republicans, they contend. "Maps should be drawn this month and an election held before next year's legislative session".

Robert Barnes has been a Washington Post reporter and editor since 1987.

The Supreme Court had discussed the case at its June 8 and June 15 conferences, according to the court's docket on the case.

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